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Am J Public Health. 2016 Sep;106(9):1586-91. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303336. Epub 2016 Jul 26.

Key Findings on Alcohol Consumption and a Variety of Health Outcomes From the Nurses' Health Study.

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Elizabeth Mostofsky is with the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA. Kenneth J. Mukamal is with the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Kenneth J. Mukamal is also with the Department of Nutrition, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Ed L. Giovannucci, Meir J. Stampfer, and Eric B. Rimm are with the Department of Nutrition, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.



To review critical contributions from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) on alcohol consumption and health outcomes.


We performed a narrative review of NHS (1980-2012) and NHS II (1989-2011) publications.


Using detailed information on self-reported alcohol drinking patterns obtained approximately every 4 years combined with extensive information on diet, lifestyle habits, and physician-diagnosed health conditions, NHS investigators have prospectively examined the risks and benefits associated with alcohol consumption. Moderate intake, defined as up to 1 drink a day, is associated with a lower risk of hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, sudden cardiac death, gallstones, cognitive decline, and all-cause mortality. However, even moderate intake places women at higher risk for breast cancer and bone fractures, and higher intake increases risk for colon polyps and colon cancer.


Regular alcohol intake has both risks and benefits. In analyses using repeated assessments of alcohol over time and deaths from all causes, women with low to moderate intake and regular frequency (> 3 days/week) had the lowest risk of mortality compared with abstainers and women who consumed substantially more than 1 drink per day.

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